Hello! in 2018, I’ve decided to start my own personal writing challenge based on “Acts of Connection,” something I thought about while hiking the Camino de Santiago. You can find the whole story here. In a nutshell, the past year’s terrifying political climate has distanced me even more from my community, and I’m seeking 52 ways to reconnect with other humans and cultures. I hope it will be a helpful–albeit, wacky–guide for those feeling the same way now or in the future.
Week One: CKO Kickboxing class in Lyndhurst, NJ
“So what happens if you can’t keep up and need a break?” I asked Ben, panicked, “do you just lie down on the ground?”
“Like in the fetal position?!” he asked.
“That’s what you do in yoga class!”
It feels odd starting this challenge with a kickboxing class. But connection comes from unexpected experiences, and I’m a little tired of the traditional advice for feeling less alienated in today’s society. So I figured, let’s start out with a bang. Or a punch. Oh boy.
My husband Ben has been kickboxing for years. Though I took one trial class with him years ago, I never got the courage to get myself back in there. These classes are no joke. They put my hiking strength to shame. But they also supply something I didn’t even know I needed until it was available to me–the opportunity to safely hit something with all my might.
It’s important to note that I am not a violent person. I carry fruit flies outside in cups (they only get a month to live!). I’m still thinking about a spider I killed because it came at me in the shower a month ago. And yet, an hour of slamming my body into a heavy bag of sand made me realize how much I’d been missing out on. If anything, it will keep me–and probably many others–from ever getting angry enough to be violent in the first place. It also, much to my surprise, became a plausible act of connection perfect for this project.
Expectations vs. Reality
For this particular story, I think the ol’ expectations vs. reality setup will work quite well. Last night was my first of six (and hopefully more) kickboxing classes–a gift from my awesome husband. This particular CKO is in Lyndhurst, NJ–a town I have never been to but have always been convinced sounds like a forgotten variety of sausage. Mmmm lyndhurst.
Expectation: I’d be surrounded by fake-tanned, testosterone-empowered dude-bros, punching and grunting around me as I tried to keep up.
Reality: The total opposite. My instructor looked like every ballet teacher I ever had but with crazy upper body strength, tattoos and a microphone. She was challenging and empowering. She made me realize how much I needed someone to yell “You can do this” at me for an hour. Also, the class was 90% young women of all shapes and sizes. The few men in the class blended in with the ladies. One guy next to me even sent occasional “dear lord I’m going to die” looks to me as a diminutive 20-something girl across from us put everyone to shame.
Expectation: The lower body stuff would be easy, the upper body stuff would be nearly impossible.
Reality: I have wrists the width of a Perrier can and calves the size of flagpoles. It’s a weird thing that long-distance hiking does to you. When our instructor yelled, “Just a few more moments!” during squats, I found myself thinking, “What’s the big deal?” But the moment I jumped down into one of the nearly 100 pushups during the class, I looked like a sad, tired dog with slightly bent elbows. But I did get through more of it than I thought. And it turns out that ballet really prepares you for roundhouse kicks! You just get to make a super-ugly face while doing them!
Expectation: The class would bring up a lot of untapped rage.
Reality: Quite the opposite. Kickboxing has a structure and control to it I didn’t expect. I didn’t feel like a rabid dog attacking the imaginary face of a particular political figure. Instead, I felt focused on my body and what naturally came up as I went. I also felt so in sync with the team around me that I didn’t have time to think about everything that’s been on my mind. Instead, it acted as a natural energy release that didn’t hit me until I got into the car later.
Expectation: I would feel self-conscious about not being athletic.
Reality: Incorrect. Everyone remains in their own little bubble while moving as a team. I felt like a part of an army of tough women preparing for the resistance in a movie montage. Also, unlike all the dance classes I’ve shuffled through since toddler-hood, no one cares what you look like. Obviously, you want to keep your form, but it’s not about being pretty or perfect.
Expectation: I would not want to vom halfway through.
Reality: I did want to vom halfway through.
Expectation: I’d be able to form sentences afterward.
Reality: Grunting and confused stares were all I could muster. I’m assuming this gets easier.
So did this make me feel more connected to society and less like I’m spending my days hiding beneath a winter blanket of sadness? YES! I highly recommend trying out a trial class. Though you probably shouldn’t just lay down on the floor, you can go at your own pace and take breaks. You’re also given a little orientation before you start. I felt amazing this morning and really look forward to going back.
How to do it
Each CKO has a free trial class offer (no, they are not paying me to write this), so go smack some things! Be part of your own movie montage!